This year the Atlanta Falcons go into Seattle with the same number of losses and much lower expectations. Unlike last year when Atlanta was still fighting for the division lead and the number one playoff seed, this year they’re just looking to leave Seattle with a .500 record.
That shouldn’t be a hard task considering that the Seattle Seahawks are ranked in the basement offensively (ranked 31st). The most important thing the Falcons need to do in this game is work out some of the kinks that have plagued them the first three weeks of the season.
Their biggest problem has been along the offensive line. Left tackle Sam Baker has been beaten constantly and the Falcons coaching staff is hoping he can get it together because they really don’t have any options behind him. Backup tackle Will Svitek has filled in for Baker in the past but he is not an upgrade at the position and none of the other backups have the experience or athleticism to man the position either.
They were at least fortunate enough to get center Todd McClure back last week. Having him back didn’t help much as they gave up four sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but he should provide more of a stabilizing presence on the line as he gets back into game shape. His veteran leadership will help starting right guard Garrett Reynolds continue to develop as the season progresses.
Wide receiver Roddy White has also had some uncharacteristic drops this season but no one expects that to persist. Getting Julio Jones and Harry Douglas more consistent touches in the passing game is the more pressing situation. Jones has shown some improvement from game to game and had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career last week but the Falcons still seem unsure of how to best exploit his explosive ability at times.
Atlanta could be better on defense but the truth is they actually did their job last week. They held Tampa to 16 points and under 300 yards of total offense which last year’s offense would have easily bested. The Falcons offense averaged over 25 points per game last season but has scored a combined 25 points in their two losses this season. The Falcons defense would have virtually had to pitch a shutout for them to win either game.
But defense shouldn’t be much of a problem this week, what should concern the Falcons is that Seattle boasts a top ten defense (yeah I know it’s only three weeks in but they do). The Seahawks don’t boast a defense the caliber of the Falcons first three opponents but they should be a good tune up for the next three teams Atlanta will face after they play Seattle this weekend.
Atlanta’s week 5-7 opponents will be the Green Bay Packers, the Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions. Those last two would have been considered sure wins only a year ago but Detroit is undefeated and averaging over 33 points per game while Carolina has been surprisingly tough this year. Atlanta has got to cut down on mistakes and get their offense in gear if they want to move their record over .500 before their bye week in week eight.
But it all starts with a win in Seattle. They can’t afford to start looking ahead to the Green Bay game and lose their focus against the Seahawks or that could be disastrous. Losing to Seattle and one or more of the teams they face before the break could easily shipwreck their championship aspirations.